Nearly every kid has read comic books at one time or another, enjoying stories about their favorite superheroes. Many times, kids who started out with the fun hobby of reading comic books grew up to be collectors who trade, buy, and sell comic books that have increased in value. In some cases, the increased value of a comic book can be staggering. In 2010, an issue of Batman from 1939 sold at auction for over one million dollars. The original cover price was only ten cents, which is a pretty good return on investment. Sales like this one excite comic book collectors, who have stacks and boxes of comics from childhood that may be worth much more than the original purchase price. While it can be difficult to know exactly which comic books are money-makers, these facts and myths can help collectors cull through their back issues and decide how to pursue this exciting new opportunity.
Getting a comic book professionally graded validates its value. Similar to a report card, a high grade means the comic is in excellent shape, while a low grade means that the value is poor. Professionals, like the Comics Guaranty Company, provide grades for comic books and then seal the books in protective sleeves. Collectors, buyers, and sellers then have common ground regarding how to judge the value of the professionally graded comic book.
The value of a comic book lies with the buyer and what that person is willing to pay. The price associated with comic books simply depends on the market and whether the issue is rare, a first appearance of an issue or character, or from a certain year or print run.
Whether or not an old comic book is valuable depends on several factors. Comics from the 1930s-40s are worth more because most were lost to landfills, pulp mills, and the paper drives of World War II. The comics from the 1960s-70s are in more plentiful supply as more people had entered the comic collecting hobby. Certain issues may be valuable (such as Amazing Fantasy 15 from 1962, which introduced Spider-Man) but they don't compare to their 1940s counterparts in scarcity. Issues from the 1990s through today have been collected in great quantities and will never have the value of those in the previous decades.
For the most part, comic books available since the 1970s will simply not have had the time to build up any considerable value. However, there are certain iconic issues that are worth a pretty penny, including The Amazing Spider-Man's anniversary issue No. 300. A mint copy sold on eBay could net upwards of $3,000. If a collector has comic books from the 1970s onward, it might be worth the effort of researching the book's value. Of course, since the collectors market sprang up in the mid-late 1960s, more comics have been saved and are in better overall condition. This means most will never be as rare as comics from the 1930s-1950s.
Not every comic is valuable, and getting one professionally graded by a business like the Comics Guaranty Company costs money. The charges can add up fast and may not pay off in the long run. Only get comics professionally graded when they are considered valuable in the larger market, and you are offering them up for resale.
Comic books begin to deteriorate from the first handling, and tears, bent corners, folds, stains, and watermarks can all decrease the overall value. To maintain value over time, comic books can be stored using specially-sized plastic bags and acid-free cardboard in a clean, dry, climate-controlled environment.
When reselling comic books, it is important to remember that comic book stores are in the business of making money. In order to turn a profit between buying and selling comic books, they need to pay less than the potential sales price they intend to charge for each item. In a comic book store, a collector needs to plan on selling a comic book for about half of the graded value.
The market for comic books changes constantly. Fortunately, a comic book collector with internet access and a grasp of his or her inventory can track the resale value of different comic books. Online auction sites like eBay are excellent places for collectors to conduct research regarding the value of comic books. This information empowers comic book collectors regarding when to sell to get the most bang for their buck.